July 25, 2023

JSI Scholar: Posi Oluwakuyide

Tell us about your story

My name is Posi Oluwakuyide, and I am rising senior at Washington and Lee University majoring in Economics and minoring in Law, Justice & Society and Poverty & Human Capability Studies. I am a Nigerian immigrant, and as an immigrant family, my parents always emphasized the importance of being grateful for what we had and recognizing the ways we could give back to others. Because of this, I was always interested in learning how to best help others, even from a young age. This transformed into something more tangible when I got to college and started learning about the systemic roots of poverty, as well as the various consequences and long-term effects of poverty. I realized that I wanted to learn how to address poverty by dismantling barriers to economic mobility, especially as it pertains to the Black community. Food justice in particular opens up bigger avenues of impact because of the ways creation of and access to food has historically been connected to economic market interactions and social determinants of health, both of which influences socioeconomic status. I hope to pursue a Ph.D. so that I can better develop a framework for understanding how issues related to food justice are connected to economic empowerment and mobility, as well as transform the ways that the fields of economics and public policy approach tackling these issues.

What path did you take when you first started college?

As a Bonner Scholar, I pledged to commit over 1,000 hours to community service, engagement and leadership development. As part of that commitment, I participated in a pre-orientation program called Volunteer Venture that introduced me to the nuanced issues of food and housing insecurity – specifically the intentional systemic policies that have caused Black generational poverty and continue to perpetuate inequities long after such laws have been overturned. I knew from then that I wanted to focus on social justice issues, so I chose two minors that would allow me to explore those issues academically and continued to work in the food justice space by volunteering at the local food pantry and taking on leadership positions with Campus Kitchen at W&L.

What made you consider a career in public policy/public service/international affairs?

I have always wanted to pursue a career in public service in some capacity. I started high school thinking that I wanted to go into law enforcement and entered college knowing that I preferred goverment work Рbut without any real understanding of what that meant or could look like. It was through the Bonner Program that I started to refine my understanding of ways to think about addressing society’s most pressing issues, whether domestically or internationally. I always knew that I wanted to.

Who inspires you to think about public service?

My parents inspire me. Because of them, public service has been a core part of my being. They raised my siblings and I to always be conscious of the ways we can give back and leave our community better off, and that has translated into my academic, extracurricular, and career pursuits as well.

What are you most excited about the JSI program at UW?

I am most excited to be given the opportunity to engage with regional and community leaders, especially in a new setting as I have never been on the west coast. I have so much to learn from people who have already dedicated their lives to public policy, so I look forward to hearing from professionals and experts about the ways they engage with critical social issues to implement effective, informed policies and create long-lasting change.